Private torrent trackers get everything wrong
I have two dozen torrents from 6 months ago I have never stopped seeding that are at 0.1 ratio. Why is that? Well, this is currently dinging my own ratio. So for someone else to download what I have, it will hurt their own ratio until someone also downloads it, hurting their ratio. In this way, you can only ever pass the bag around and no one wants to be left holding the bag. “A curious game. The only winning move is not to play.” except unlike Wargames, this isn’t a fallacy. Interacting with the system is actually detrimental because it causes loss to access of the system.
So what do private trackers do to give people hope? They have to, for they would go extinct soon. The admins will occasionally have freeleech, half-leech, or double seed reward day type things along with giving people points (usually in GB) to their accounts as rewards for shit like forum posting and being the first uploader. This of course means that using a private tracker is extremely long term and you can game your ratio by interacting only with the meta systems and still get all the downloads you want within reason. This still does nothing to fix the actual problem and can exacerbate it, since you now have people essentially leeching, the very practice you wanted to stop. Take note that these are all positive reinforcement incentives, but only to dig you out of your grave or to stave off the negative punishments.
Taking a hard line against terminal leechers is the real problem here. It’s the “tough on crime” mentality so what happens is people just avoid the System (aka police) rather than act like responsible citizens. P2P torrents don’t work like our religiously individualistic capitalist systems dictate they should. They’re completely altruistic in nature. Allow me to coin a new term that is the inverse of altruism, but not simply refraining from doing anything at all—maltruisim. You can’t punish someone for being maltruistic in order to motivate altruism. What you get instead is no interaction at all. This is why every private tracker is a wasteland with only the newest 5% of torrents being hotspots for seeding/leeching because some people want to gamble that they might get some high ratio points while there’s a surge. Side note: I know that a lot of private trackers want to be elite and separate themselves from places like The Pirate Bay where they allege people terminally leech all the time because the general population are assholes. This is bullshit and clearly lacks an understanding of why people don’t want to seed on a public tracker—they’re being spied on. Most people can’t leave a VPN on all day or only download without them, so they can’t seed publicly. It’s a completely different world since the threat of outside punishment is so high. Private trackers end up nevertheless wastelands of non-interaction precisely because they don’t run like public trackers but without the threat of real-world punishment. See how both can be wastelands because of the same reason (threat of punishment)?
To fix this problem of non-interaction, we must first ask what causes the sharing of files in the first place. Certainly there’s the collective idea of cooperation: you share because you hope others will share what you want. Obviously this is easy to exploit for those who want to download but don’t want to seed for whatever reason (maybe they have a bandwidth cap?) and would only tend to result in mutual-sharing when two people have like interests. That cross-section would be large in a large population but still small percentage-wise and therefore hinder growth as our population grows. But there’s another reason which has been staring everyone in the face: humans love sharing. We stream gameplay on twitch, instagram the food we eat or clothes we wear, play albums in the car for our friends, take people to our favorite restaurants, and so forth. Ever just get excited and want to share something with people? That’s what motivates file-sharing. Obviously the receivers aren’t motivated that way because that would be bizarre. However, the motives in a relationship can be asymmetrical without being exploitative in effect. By allowing people to share what they want or can (based on their own well-known limitations), you allow people to be people. You can incentivize sharing for those that need it by granting those that share a bonus of some kind. Perhaps rack up those points but use them to grant members titles. Then they might take pride in it or want to even gamify their own standing in the community, if those people are still absolutely motivated by the same capitalistic thinking of exchange interaction. You can see how this approach covers those who are truly communal and even those who are exchange-minded.
Before long, you have people downloading stuff they don’t want just to share it. That’s bad right? Wrong! Torrent is not like the world of things, it’s a world of data. The more peers the better, always. That way when someone does want something, they have extra peers available, making their download faster so their own seed can start sooner. This system affords geometric growth of peers—each person individually wants to maximize their group standing, so postures for the group or sincerely acts but the net effect is that each member grows the aggregate. The traditional hierarchical structure of private torrents is incredibly discouraging to the human desire to share or have. One should not create obstacles to sharing if the entire point is to share. The problem is the pervasive thought among capitalistic citizens that “someone is getting a free ride!” and the reaction is to burn everything to the ground just to smoke out the freeloaders. The problem is, in p2p networks, freeloaders don’t cause much of a problem. If you’re worried about them being a problem on the larger aggregate, then try a positive reinforcement as mentioned above, rather than negative reinforcement for failure. The positive reinforcement doesn’t care what kind of seeder they are (just in it for the points or doing it sincerely), it rewards all giving behavior evenly. The negative reinforcement doesn’t care what kind of downloader the peer is (terminal leech or would-be seeder) it punishes all failures blindly. Thinking about it, all we care about is the result—more seeds. If you blindly reward seeds, you get more regardless of motivation. If you blindly punish the lack of them, you get less regardless of someone’s possible legitimate reason for failure.
In conclusion, if your goal is the spreading of human knowledge which is infinitely copyable and sharable data, then your systems should reinforce the spreading of knowledge rather than having the system be build on the fear of getting burned. Private trackers, you can do better than this.